I finally finished the first season of Showtime’s new ranchy love child. I’ll give it a B. It’s definitely an “edgy” show, but that seems to be the source of its problems. It seems to be an epidemic running through a lot of cable shows. They can do R rated things. I get it. But that doesn’t make it a good show. I’m mostly talking to you Weeds. They remind me of that kid in high school English class who, after learning that we can swear in our short stories, tries to fit in as many curses as s/he can. It just comes off as immature. Wow you can swear, you can show raunchy sex. Great. But this doesn’t replace substance. It doesn’t substitute for plot, character development, crisis or any other device that makes for a good show.
That said, I do think Californication has potential. The romance between exes Hank (David Duchovny) and Karen (Natascha McElhone) is actually really great. It’s subtle, it’s complicated and it’s heart wrenching. And suprisingly Duchovny and McElhone actually have some chemistry. Nothing near the chemistry of Mulder and Scully, but enough to make it worthwile. But what really holds the show is Duchovny. Other than the X-Files I’m not sure what he has done thats seriously remarkable or memorable. I did enjoy The TV Set, Jake Kasdan’s sneer at network tv inspired by his time on Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared (the movie was produced by Judd Apatow, of course). When it comes down to it, though, the man hasn’t done much. And it’s odd because I think he’s quite a good actor. I don’t know what he looks for in work, but he hasn’t made the smartest decisions. I guess the X-Files was enough for him. Enough of my Duchovny ranting and back to the show.
Duchovny is really the glue that holds the show together. Without his cynicism and dry wit the show would just fall apart and while it’s great that he can be so great it doesn’t say much for the show as an entirety. Great shows aren’t hinged on a single character. Like other cable shows there’s a lot of sex, and I mean A LOT with tons of nudity, consistent swearing and “shocking” subplots. By shocking I mean that the show thinks we’ll find it shocking, but I just find it irritating and cliche. The one I’m thinking about is the one between Hank and Karen’s soon to be 16 year old step-daughter. Early on he sleeps with ther, not knowing who she is or her age, only later to find out who she really is and that she’s a complete sociopath. Basically, she has a naive 16 year old crush on him and believes that they are in love. Wow, I’m so shocked. That’s all they could come up with? Still, it’s not enough to stop me from watching the show. Duchovny is a strong actor and for all of the “shocking for the sake of being shocking” stuff going on, it has it’s moments. But Season 2 will either make it or break it. I made it through the first season wanting more, but unless they drop the act and flesh it out a bit and drop the “we can do whatever we want” act, it may become a show that just never delivered.